Who would have thought that a movie about a video game starring a plumber and his brother fighting a huge lizard/dinosaur to save a Princess and her country would be something that we would be seeing in 2023? Let alone the insane backlash from the major mainstream media “critics” about how a kid’s film that also caters to adult fans is made for… KIDS AND FANS! Shock! Horror! Well, The Super Mario Bros Movie is one of THOSE films that critics hate because it’s not a deep, gritty, long, politically motivated, self-deprecating film that shuns the fans and kids it was made for in favor of the “film elite” who sit around, click their tongue and go “What message do we push in media today”? The Super Mario Bros Movie is a film for fans and kids, which is not a bad thing at all… Even Chris Pratt’s voice work can’t keep this film from being a huge hit for those of us who ENJOY FILMS!! Enough ranting… Let’s get into the review.
Title: The Super Mario Bros Movie Production Company: Universal Pictures, Nintendo, Illumination Distributed by: Universal Pictures Directed by: Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic Produced by: Chris Meledandri & Shigeru Miyamoto Written by: Matthew Fogel Starring: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Charles Martinet, & Kevin Michael Richardson Based on: Mario Bros by Shigeru Miyamoto & Nintendo Release dates: April 5, 2023 Running time: 92 minutes Rating: PG
Brothers Mario and Luigi have recently started a plumbing business in Brooklyn. The business struggles and their father disapproves of Mario’s decision to leave his steady job under the antagonistic Spike. After seeing a significant manhole leak on the news, Mario and Luigi go underground to fix it but are sucked into a Warp Pipe and separated.
Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach, while Luigi lands in the Dark Lands, ruled by the Koopa king Bowser. Bowser seeks to marry Peach and will destroy the Mushroom Kingdom using the Super Star if she refuses. Bowser imprisons Luigi to blackmail Mario, who he sees as competition for Peach’s favor. Mario meets Toad, who takes him to Peach. Peach plans to ally with the Jungle Kingdom to help repel Bowser and agrees to take Mario and Toad along. In the Jungle Kingdom, King Cranky Kong agrees to help on the condition that Mario defeats his son, Donkey Kong, in a fight. Despite a shaky start, Mario defeats Donkey Kong using a Cat Suit.
Mario, Peach, Toad, and the Kongs use karts to drive to Bowser, but his army ambushes them on Rainbow Road. When a Koopa General destroys part of the road, Mario and Donkey Kong plummet to the ocean and are eaten by a Maw-Ray, while the other Kongs are captured. Peach and Toad return to the Mushroom Kingdom and urge the citizens to evacuate. Bowser arrives aboard his flying castle and proposes; Peach accepts after he tortures Toad. After bonding over their problems with their fathers, Mario and Donkey Kong escape the Maw-Ray by riding a rocket from Donkey Kong’s kart and hurrying to Bowser and Peach’s wedding.
At the wedding reception, Bowser intends to execute all of his prisoners in lava as a “gift” for Peach. Toad smuggles an Ice Flower inside Peach’s bouquet. Peach freezes Bowser and frees the prisoners alongside Mario and Donkey Kong. Bowser frees himself and calls a Banzai Bill to destroy Peach’s castle, but Mario diverts it into the Warp Pipe. This causes Bowser’s castle to be transported to Brooklyn. As they fight Bowser; Mario and Luigi grab the Super Star, become invincible, and defeat the Koopas. Bowser is shrunk with a Mini Mushroom and imprisoned in a bottle. The residents of Brooklyn celebrate Mario and Luigi, including Spike and their parents. Mario and Luigi take up residence in the Mushroom Kingdom, with a pipe to return to Brooklyn whenever needed.
Story Review – Some Vague Spoilers
Look, if you go into The Super Mario Bros Movie looking for some sort of high-art long-term storytelling, then you’re going to be disappointed. The Super Mario Bros Movie is an origin movie with the bare bones plot of the video games. Yes, the video games didn’t have a long plot full of character development, it was literally the video game version of the ‘damsel in distress’ trope. Mario went through 8 worlds, defeated Bowser, and rescued Princess Peach… That’s it! Hell, the whole Bowser wants to marry Peach storyline didn’t appear till Mario Odessey! So if you think that The Super Mario Bros Movie was lacking plot, then either you haven’t played the games at all, or you have your head so far up your… No, no… Calm down, Karl…
The Super Mario Bros Movie is a good movie for an origin movie. We get established with Mario & Luigi when they start their plumbing business, something even their family doesn’t think will work, then we see them heading to the worlds that the games work with via a lot tube under Brooklyn. Luigi ends up in the ‘dark lands’, where Bowser rules. It’s a land of darkness and horror (Good reference to Luigi’s Mansion in a sideways throwback) and lava all over the place. Mario ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom, meets Peach, and together the two set off to save all the lands from Bowsers. The twist here is that while Peach is under the impression that Bowser is wanting to take over the world, he really wants to marry Peach and rule via that method. Bowser wants to marry into power and use political influence and law to take over the world… There’s your “nuanced storytelling” you mainstream “critics”!
The other thing that The Super Mario Bros Movie does really well is references. Man, I can’t wait for a streaming copy or Bluray (or 4K, it’s that good) because I’m going to be going frame by frame with The Super Mario Bros Movie in order to find out all the references this movie has. You have things like many shops in both Brooklyn and the Mushroom Kingdom with names, pictures, and items that come from not only Mario Bros games but Nintendo products in general. While some might call this “using the movie to sell merchandise”, the rest of us call this fan service and welcome fan service at that. Even the much-worried-about cameo of Charles Martinet is a PERFECT homage to both Mario and Charles himself, The Super Mario Bros Movie does that good of a job giving the fans something to get excited over while the kids will just love the basic, easy-to-follow, story of the movie.
Chris Pratt as Mario Let’s get this out of the way… Chris Pratt is excellent as Mario. Yes, he’s not doing the stereotypical Italian accent that the character is known for, but given how much is going on and all the talking that Mario does in The Super Mario Bros Movie, Pratt not doing that accent works really well and saves his voice. The way The Super Mario Bros Movie moves in its story at such break-neck speeds you’ll forget that it’s Pratt behind a mic after only a few scenes. The trailers didn’t look good because they were trying to have Pratt be Charles, but without that pressure over his head, Pratt comes off as a really good movie Mario.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach Loved everything that they did with Peach in The Super Mario Bros Movie. Usually, I’m not a fan of the female character being a badass for no other reason than she’s a female in 2023, but The Super Mario Bros Movie actually gave her a reason to be a badass. Peach trained from a young age in the Mushroom Kingdom, hitting power-ups, dodging Pahrana plants, bullet bills, and more. This gained her the respect of the Toad people, which is why she is a Princess in the land. We get a good origin for Peach and why she is the way she is. She earned everything, and it’s great to see.
Charlie Day as Luigi Poor Luigi, always getting the short end of the stick. This Luigi is based on the more modern version of the character that comes from games like Luigi’s Mansion. This places him into whatever the male version of the ‘damsel in distress role. He does get a bit braver in the third act of The Super Mario Bros Movie, and it works for the moment. I just hope that in future Super Mario Bros Movie films, they use Luigi more and give him some of the spotlight.
Jack Black as Bowser Perfect, just perfect. Jack Black is perfect as Bowser. From being a threatening monster to a complex lover, Black’s Bowser comes off exactly like we wanted and more. When Bowser is being a threat in front of all his minions, you get that big boss energy that you expect from the character, then you get more with Bowser showing his obsession with Peach. When this moment happens, complete with a Tenacious D-level song called “Peaches”, you see something more from a one-dimensional character that the video games created.
Keegan-Michael Key as Toad The obvious comedy character, Key’s Toad isn’t as annoying as you would think he would be. This version of the character was based on the more modern version seen in games like Mario Odessy and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, where Toad is more of an explorer and adventurer than the other Toads, who are played off as weak, cute, and powerless. Toad is given a small role in The Super Mario Bros Movie, giving some moments where you’ll laugh at what he does, then he disappears into the background so he doesn’t overplay his welcome. A great use of a character who could come off as annoying as hell.
Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong Another ‘controversial’ casting choice comes off as really, really, really good. It could be that by the time Donkey Kong shows up in The Super Mario Bros Movie I was so invested in the movie that my brain just didn’t click that this was Seth Rogan, someone I’m not a huge fan of, to begin with, but I enjoyed his time as the legendary monkey. While there is no history between the two characters outside of a single fight, which Mario wins, the two have a ‘enemies turn friends’ sub-plot that brings us into the third act of The Super Mario Bros Movie. Once the two work together, it’s a great moment. The Super Mario Bros Movie even does something with Donkey Kong that we haven’t seen in a proper Mario game ever… and I want that to be fixed ASAP.
Fred Armisen as King Cranky Kong He’s there, he’s cranky, and that’s all we need. Cranky Kong is the leader of the Kong tribe/army, and he is the one who makes the challenge to place a block in the path of Peach and Mario. There isn’t anything deeper here and much like Toad, there doesn’t need to be. But looking at the way the Kong Kingdom is shown and portrayed, as a technologically advanced people, you might come to understand why Mario Kart has a K instead of a C in the word Kart.
Charles Martinet as 2 cameo characters: Mario and Luigi’s father & Giuseppe Yeah, we get not only one cameo for Charles but two! One of which allows Charles to just work as himself for a few lines as Mario & Luigi’s father (The character looks very much like Captain Lou Albano, combining two Mario references into one) and another one where he appears as Giuseppe (aka Jump-Man) in a moment where he gets to put on the Mario voice for a few lines. I think this is a perfect way to pay homage to the voice of Mario in multiple ways while keeping Charles’ voice ready for his next role as Mario’s voice is very taxing on his vocal cords these days.
Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek A very underrated role here. As Bowser’s second in command, Kamek comes off as Bowser’s comedy sidekick in some moments, one of which will scar my brain forever. However, he is there to help push Bowser and his plot along, while keeping his master’s ego in check at times too. Another character who needs a much bigger role in future movies.
All you need to do is re-read the outline of the story I spoke about above to see what works for The Super Mario Bros Movie. The Super Mario Bros Movie is a basic, easy-to-follow, movie that is entertaining to kids and is filled with so many references for older fans to go through and keep them entertained too. The Super Mario Bros Movie is a love letter to the franchise, from the amazing CGI visuals, and the music choices, to just about everything you see from start to finish. I really want to put The Super Mario Bros Movie over more and more, but in order to do so would require me to spoil moments from the film, and that’s something I really don’t want to do. The references are all over the place. Bowser’s airship theme from Super Mario Bros 3 opens the movie, then you see Mario and Luigi going through a replica of the world 1-1 from Super Mario Bros on the NES while in Brooklyn, and even the Captain Lou Albano TV show gets MULTIPLE references in the film. If you’re still reading this expecting more praise for The Super Mario Bros Movie, then why? GO SEE IT!
What didn’t work
Ok, ok… The Super Mario Bros Movie isn’t a completely perfect film. It’s damn close. The Super Mario Bros Movie is a 4.99 out of 5 stars easily, but we don’t have that rating here. During the whole 92-minute runtime, there was only ONE thing that I, and a couple of friends, found annoying in The Super Mario Bros Movie. There is a couple of scenes with a Lumos from Super Mario Galaxy who has the joke of being one of the cutest things in the movie but thinks and talks about the most depressing thing in the whole film. It’s done three times total, with the first time being funny, then the rest are just so depressing that it really drags everything in The Super Mario Bros Movie down and almost brings the film to a complete stop.
Go see The Super Mario Bros Movie now! Support this movie now! When you are done, jump onto Rotten Tomatoes, OpenCritic, Metacritic, etc, and give this movie a high rating. The Super Mario Bros Movie is the film that shows how out of touch mainstream critics are with the fans of cinema. The Super Mario Bros Movie is a great kids’ film that parents will enjoy too, and if you’re a fan of the Super Mario games then you’ll get even more from this film. The Super Mario Bros Movie deserves all the praise it can get, all the support you can muster, and a call to make another one sometime soon. The Super Mario Bros Movie is the film that will remind you that films are meant to be fun all over again.
The Super Mario Bros Movie is a great animated kids film for kids. If you happen to be an adult who grew up with an NES, SNES, or other Nintendo console with a Mario game, you’ll be swept away by the references and easter eggs that The Super Mario Bros Movie provides. Do not believe what the mainstream media ‘critics’ are saying about The Super Mario Bros Movie, they are WRONG. This is your childhood Super Mario movie wish to come true… So support it today, tomorrow, and when it comes to streaming and physical media.